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Quinquennial questions

25 January 2013

We have received our Quinquennial Inspection report, and essential repairs seem to be needed all over our listed building. Nothing so big as replacing a roof, but things such as stones, downpipes, windows, and tracery, added together, come to far more than we can tackle financially. We might do the work in phases, but we don't want to pay out for a full scaffold more than once: it is too expensive. 

MOST Quinquennial reports have a useful section that uses a timescale for necessary work: immediate, in two years, and in five years. Use this as advice, not prescription.

Run through the list of repairs to differentiate between important repairs that would prevent the loss of heritage material (such as stone or carving), and critical repairs, such as those that protect the structural integrity of the building (keeping out the wind and rain).

It is possible to scaffold one side or a building, or just the tower; so make a chart, with lists of works for the main "faces" of the building: tower, north, south, and east (west is usually covered by the tower). Under each heading, list the required works, starting with the most urgent at the top and working down to the less critical.

A picture may emerge of how, by tackling one face of the building, you can pick up most of the critical works. Emergency holding-work may address an item on another face, without the whole scaffold, until you can get to that work properly in a future phase. Lay out a five-year plan that picks up the various phases and makes them manageable.

There are, as always, a few provisos. Work that is related to gutters, downpipes, and drainage will always be of the highest priority; they are the most likely items to threaten the integrity of your building. If your report has significant works targeted on these, you may wish to make this your first phase. Items such as window repairs (glazing and painting the frames) can be stand-alone tasks, which can be tackled at any time, and fund-raising may even be separate, as there are specific trusts that like helping with stained-glass windows.

If your planned phasing leaves tracery or carved stones for a later stage, even though they are clearly deteriorating, have some good photographs taken so that anything lost can be replaced in due time.

It is better to tackle the worst tasks relatively quickly, in a project that is shaped to be within the parameters of the trusts that like to help churches with repairs. And plan to fund each phase fully before you start any work on it. What you do not want is to create such stress for the building committee that all the members disappear after the first phase. Excellent planning and inbuilt safeguards keep everyone confident.

Put the building committee and the building into your intercessions. Also, add updates to the notice-sheet: otherwise, the year during which the committee addresses fund-raising will seem, to the person in the pew, like a year of doing nothing. Sometimes, waiting for answers from trusts is the most active thing you can do. Of course, the restless person in the pew could become pro-active and make a donation, or run a fund-raising event.

Issues and questions to: maggiedurran@virginmedia.com

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